Category Archives: Cancer

Scars by James Roach

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I never used to walk around shirtless.
Not until surgery gave me a flat chest
and two six inch scars
reaching across like two smiles.
And even then,
my shyness kept my shirt on
as a piece of armor
from possible curious eyes.
It’s been 9 years
and I still feel awkward
having my torso bare
in front of my family.
Like I’m somehow inconveniencing
their notions of what my body should look like.
My body is still unfamiliar to them
and sometimes even to me.
I have no problem
being shirtless around friends
or strangers at the beach.
My scars are two stories
I don’t mind telling
without having to speak.
I’m proud of their
messy and uneven lines.
I’m proud of the body
I took apart to create.

James Roach

James Roach has been writing for years but only in the past few has he realized he might be amazing with words. He’s originally from the midwest and has been living in the Pacific Northwest for 13 years. James is inspired by the weather, heartbreak, beauty, ugliness, and more than this text box can fit. :

Addiction by James Roach

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When she asked me if I believe I have a problem with alcohol,
it felt different to answer “yes” out loud,
my voice echoing back at me,
rather than just checking a box on a form full of questions
I should have been asking myself all along.
Questions I deemed too difficult to answer.
Not like not knowing how to solve a math problem,
but more like knowing how to save yourself
but being afraid it’ll be too hard to show your work.
2 DUI’s in 4 years and more than that
if you count all the times I should have gotten caught.
The metal of the handcuffs was cold and heavy
and not at all like the cheap pairs we played with as kids.
They were simple to maneuver out of while laughing
at our cunning escape techniques,
not knowing then that being arrested isn’t so funny.
Jail has no clocks,
no windows,
and no comfort
but plenty of time to think and plead yourself
into promising you’ll do better.
I wrote myself a letter
in anxious and hungry handwriting,
using the bible as something hard
under my piece of paper and golf pencil.
I wanted to document my version of rock bottom.
By the time I read this into a microphone,
I will be 61 days sober which today equals 197 days
that I haven’t almost killed myself or anyone else.
But 197 days is still just a drop in the bucket for the 7 years I could have.
For the 7 years I drank myself into believing
it wasn’t a problem to survive that way.
For the behavior I wish I didn’t have to call my own
but that I hold in my hands,
with my name written all over it
in the handwriting of the relationships I’ve ruined.
For the behavior I had even without alcohol,
my magic trick being I can still ruin everything without drinking.
Switch my triggers from the grocery store beer aisle
to the sound of cartoon dollar signs
and left behind ATM receipts with high remaining balances.
Replace pints of beer with pints of debt and empty promises.
You can take away those new sheets I never needed for sleeping
and subtract those new clothes I never needed to wear.
Add in my rolodex of unpaid bills and broken record apologies
but definitely take note of my awesome t-shirt collection.
I’m an addict.
I’m addicted to the smell of new things
and the ability to drink to forget
that I never needed them in the first place.
My words have given bruises just as well as fists,
unintentionally carving my initials
into unwilling skin and bone
as if to say “I was here”
and “I caused more damage than this.”
While driving to the poetry slam in April,
I watched the sky break into blue over Tacoma.
The rain fell between sun rays and car crashes,
washing away the smell of burnt rubber
and increased insurance premiums.
I was listening to Explosions in the Sky
which is a band and not a metaphor for thunder.
It reminded me of the way lightning
can turn darkness into daytime in a split second.
It reminded me that when I drink,
I can turn light into darkness in the same split second,
that I am the opposite of lightning.
But if I try hard enough,
I can be electric again.

James Roach

James Roach has been writing for years but only in the past few has he realized he might be amazing with words. He’s originally from the midwest and has been living in the Pacific Northwest for 13 years. James is inspired by the weather, heartbreak, beauty, ugliness, and more than this text box can fit. :

Eight Minutes Down the Appalachian Highway by Kate Garrett

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Eight Minutes Down the Appalachian Highway

She can’t hear his screams
to slow down in her slip
over hills, trees, sleet;
the clouds cloak a hidden
sunset, the bend of this road
steady and close as her spine.

Today is the day she’ll learn
to hold a man’s terror gently,
a silver dagger crossing her palm,
its glittering risk in her peripheral
vision as she drives.

Softening, she’ll relent—but she
will regret not leaving her lead
foot on the gas; she’ll wish she’d
closed her eyes, turned the volume
up, kept her sorry back.

Kate Garrett

Kate Garrett is the founding editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron / Three Drops Press and Picaroon Poetry. Her own work appears here and there, in online and print journals, including Rust + Moth, Prole, The Black Light Engine Room, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others. Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2017. She lives in Sheffield, UK with her husband, four children, and a sleepy cat. Find her online at

Three Entries from a Fly’s Diary by Cindy Song

“Conclusions on the Wall” by Glenn W. Cooper | Pinterest | Facebook | Blind Dog Press

Three Entries from a Fly’s Diary

I touch people like a monsoon lover nestled in the folds of
shiny valleys. I touch them where the water runs dry, where
God settles down at night. Flit around a fruit market, pulp of
a ripe orange spilling out of velvet lips & splitting concrete.
I touch the fruit but they don’t touch me back. The papaya feels
like a slick leather forehead pulsing under my spindly black legs.

My mind can’t help but wander. It’s part of my nature like flight
& hunger. The birds have it good, they’re all up there digging
holes in space while I’m heavy & hunted like a goddamn whale.
Colors drip out my peripheral vision, blend together like mother’s
fingers as she weaves the spindle round & round, round & round.
Everything spins so fast & it feels a little like blindness.

When night comes, the lanterns descend & I’m scared the fire will
escape & swallow the sky. Look at these humans, look at their skin
glisten pale gold under artificial lights like ghosts, like skinned
scallops, bodies stacked on bodies, tide washing in & out, in & out.
My God, they tuck their secrets away so well: in the caves in their nose,
the hollow of their neck, the crevice between their legs. I hide so well
with their secrets but it’s such a shame there’s nowhere for them to hide.
The moon full & my stomach empty, yearning always yearning.

Cindy Song

Cindy Song is a high school junior from Rockville, Maryland. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hollins University, and National Poetry Quarterly. When not writing, Cindy can usually be found baking cookies or learning the guitar. Twitter: @cindsong_

Magic 8 Ball Theory by Brianna Howarth

“One Thing Leads To Another” by Glenn W. Cooper | Pinterest | Facebook | Blind Dog Press

Magic 8 Ball Theory

We play house.
I set the baked ziti
on the dining room table.
You pour the champagne.

                         But I don’t want to pretend.

I mean business.
             Buying a queen mattress,
                                      dreaming next to you.

Your hair stuck in the drain,
my clothes impeding your closet space,
compromising on a couch,
splitting stamp prices,
sharing an address
and the welcome mat.

But I stick to safe sentences:

             How was work?

             I like your eyes.

             Here’s my dream

you starred in again.

But the question I want to ask:
Do you love me?
keeps getting caught
in my throat
like a house key.

Brianna Howarth

Brianna Howarth is an Instructional Designer/Writer, poet, lover of language, beach bum, fitness fanatic, and an appreciator of alliteration. Her work has been featured in South Jersey Magazine, the mobile app Hooked, Artemis, and Port City Review. She loves the rain, chai teas, and memoirs. Wander through her website at

Confluence by Rachel Egly

Strata 17 by Tracy-Ann Marrison | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


I. Estuary

A river runs rampant through
your veins, your mind, sometimes

I can see it rushing behind
your eyes. You’re adding
water to the sea
of me; we are brackish

where we are joined, all
salt and transition.

II. Diversion

I heard the sound          answered          came
across this watery divide

just to put some
distance between us. I’m not sure
if you liked being called a
river; they are
impetuous, shallow things that are
hard to get over.
I should know

better. It is calmer on this
bank, but I wish you
were here.

Rachel Egly

Rachel was born and raised outside of Chicago, but currently resides 120 miles south where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in freshwater ecology from the University of Illinois. She is in love with pretty rivers, insomnia, and good pizza. You can learn more about her at

Knife’s Edge by Rachel Egly

Forbidden View by Ioannis Lachanis | Facebook | Etsy Shop

Knife’s Edge

I find myself holding
my breath when you’re around, like the smell of

you could be enough
to take me. I’m terrified to find out. You are

all busy knees and serrated
fingernails, the edge of a knife held

against my skin. I am still here
not despite your sharpness, but
because of it.

Rachel Egly

Rachel was born and raised outside of Chicago, but currently resides 120 miles south where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in freshwater ecology from the University of Illinois. She is in love with pretty rivers, insomnia, and good pizza. You can learn more about her at

Five Years by Erin Jin Mei O’Malley

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Five Years

It took me five years to love
an Elizabeth again.

Five winters and summers
of chapped lips and peeling

suntans. I had to grow myself from the ground
up before I let myself spend my Friday nights watching

movies with your namesakes,
doing the things that were dangerously close

to what we did. I put the span of six states worth
of sky between us to eat a pizza

with Elizabeth Keegan.
I scratched off the songs I knew you

liked from DJ request lists, so I could dance
with Elizabeth Griffin.

Last I knew, you were still in Pennsylvania. Sometimes,
even now, I catch myself watching a tv show or

checking out an outfit you’d like. You probably don’t care
about anything from the mid 2000’s anymore.

You’ve probably moved
to California or half the distance

of California like you said
you would, or maybe you’ve moved to some state

of grace the Elizabeth of Now likes. I keep forgetting
that you’re seasoned with dry skin

and freckles, too. Everything
about you now is newborn.

Last four am, I woke up safety pinned
to Elizabeth Han, the hours of us, Elizabeths and I,

thawing. I unbraided my hand
from hers, wondered

why we don’t describe the dead
as breathless.

Erin Jin Mei O’Malley

Erin Jin Mei O’Malley is a poet who currently lives in Germany. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University, Columbia College at Chicago, and others. She is the Co-Founder of Sooth Swarm Journal and will eventually blog at

In Iambs for You by s. Nicholas

Maneater by Lori Field | Website | Facebook | Tumblr

In Iambs for You

“Students who don’t stand for the pledge should be kicked out of class.”
-coworker at a staff meeting 2/6/15

America I don’t owe you my voice
or my tired legs, varicose veins
seething from the pressure of all
you have to offer. America
you have ordered me
quiet once too often. You’ve
told me I am too small, too
poor, too woman. So America
when you demand that I speak
I remain silent. You have
my heart, over which I place my right
hand, because I see your potential
America, your could-be, and it beats,
this heart, in iambs for you. America
this is how we love each other.

s. Nicholas

s. Nicholas teaches high school in the San Bernardino mountains where she lives with her three children and one husband. She has a BA in English/World Literature and Psychology from Pitzer College, as well as a Master’s in Education from Claremont Graduate University. She also has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cal State San Bernardino. She is educated far beyond her intelligence. More info about her can be found on her website: Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Gesture, Tin Cannon, The Smoking Poet, Sugared Water, Two Words For, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Amethyst Arsenic, the anthology Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus, and the anthology All We Can Hold: poems of motherhood.

Bad Omens by Lakshmi Mitra

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Bad Omens

friday evening, an avenue streaked with cars
a cold crow with her head
pointing north, her feathers

my brother trades in insignificancies.

he strings wishbones, milky shells.
gathers crow’s blood
for the gods to drink.

we carry debt-burdens of bad omens
like we carry our spines;
unflinching. regret is not always
acrid, but marmalade-sweet.

when i think of our mother’s ashes
i think of sticky jam, and
sometimes of the bodies we abandon
only to find that skin always
feels the same (alive, alive)
and at night, new ghosts sing
their own elegies.

sometimes when i look
in the mirror – it frightens me.
how much
i look like myself.

Lakshmi Mitra

Lakshmi Mitra is a 19 year old college student living in Kolkata who occasionally frustrates herself into a bout of writing. When not doing so, she can be found reading, studying, craving sleep, and complaining. She is mostly polite, a lousy conversationalist, and doesn’t like sudden movements. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to her that her cats still don’t like her. She blogs at